Thanksgiving, Teens, and Cultivating Gratitude Year Round


“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”  Anonymous

The shift.

There’s a shift that happens when you become a parent.  I know you’ve experienced it.  It’s a shift that tells you things will never be the same again.  Something similar happens with every age and stage your children go through.  It’s not really anything that can be put into words most of the time.  You just know they’re changing, and you’re changing right along with them.  I am not the same person I used to be.

Thanksgiving, Teens, and Cultivating Gratitude Year Round Becky Gonzalez Contributor Miami Moms Blog
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

As I sit in our living room typing away on my laptop, Finding Nemo is playing on TV.  You’re probably wondering what Finding Nemo has to do with Thanksgiving or even teens.  Hopefully, it will make a little more sense in just a bit.  Finding Nemo is a family favorite, and it has been from the moment we first saw it. 

I remember that day as clearly as if it had happened yesterday.  One of the most memorable movies I’ve ever seen, in large part because I was pregnant with my middle daughter at the time, and started having some pretty intense contractions right in the middle of the movie.  She was born just several days later.  Speaking of shifts, this is the same daughter that now has a learner’s permit and is practicing her driving weekly when we are at Miami-Dade College North Campus for her dual enrollment classes.  (Yes, that pun was intended.)

When did this happen? 

How has it been over sixteen years since that trip to the movies?   

“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”  Dory, Finding Nemo  

Ah, one of my favorite lines in the movie, which brings me to my sort of unrelated segue into what this post is actually about:  Thanksgiving and teens.  I honestly never thought too much about that.  I mean, Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, right?  Yes, and no.  Yes, Thanksgiving is still Thanksgiving, whether your kids are toddlers or teens.  However, Thanksgiving with toddlers is not the same thing as Thanksgiving with teens.

I don’t know if I have done anything specific to change what I do on Thanksgiving now that my littles aren’t so little anymore.  I guess it just happened sort of organically over the years.  From the cut-out cornucopias to the pilgrim puppets, our Thanksgiving crafts are a thing of the past.  Well, the actual craft times are done, but all of their crafty fall creations hang on our walls and sit on our shelves.  You better believe we bring it all out when we deck the halls for fall.

Thanksgiving is more than crafts and cornucopias. 

It has to be, because if it weren’t, what would we do once the kiddos were no longer making them?  Although now that I am thinking about it, our craft times aren’t completely gone.  I mean, we made those place cards a few years ago that we still use to set the table each Thanksgiving.  I think that maybe our craft times just shifted (there goes that word again) so that it looks just a little differently these days.  Instead of hands sticky from all the craft glue we used, our sticky hands are a result of all the Thanksgiving meal preparation.  Our clothes get dirty from that morning Turkey Bowl football game at a nearby park, not from the watercolor painting of a cornucopia. 

Thanksgiving, Teens, and Cultivating Gratitude Year Round Becky Gonzalez Contributor Miami Moms Blog

When your kids are old enough to REALLY help in the kitchen, and they take over their favorite side dish or dessert from start to finish, that, my friends, is a glorious day.

So much more than sticky hands, crafts, or even having kids old enough to help out in the kitchen, Thanksgiving is about gratitude.  It’s in the word itself:  thanksgiving.  The giving of thanks that comes from a heart filled with gratitude.  Keeping my eyes fixed on that as the goal helps me to be grateful for the sticky hands-on Thanksgiving, as well as the rest of the year.

Thanksgiving is more than just a day in November. 

I have felt that way about a few occasions recently, as you can see here and here.

I think God shows me glimpses on certain “special” days of what my focus really needs to be on most days, not just on that day.  Gratitude isn’t just something I save for Thanksgiving or even the month of November.  It should be a lifestyle that I am fighting to cultivate.  In the midst of the eye-rolls, the grappling for and relinquishing of control, and their lack of enthusiasm at times, it most certainly is a fight to cultivate gratitude at all costs.  

That doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the hard, downright excruciating task of motherhood we’ve been called to.  I am sometimes most painfully aware of how hard my job is on days like Thanksgiving, when cooperation, and even that gratitude I am fighting so hard to cling to just seem like a pumpkin pie in the sky dream.  (Yep, that pun was intended too.)

We were made to do more than just survive that day or any other day for that matter.  Fighting for gratitude helps me do that.    

That is why Thanksgiving has been, and will continue to be, one of my favorite holidays.  

Practical help.    

For those of you that are looking for some practical help when it comes to Thanksgiving with pre-teens and teens, here are articles from The Art of Simple and Grown and Flown that have been helpful resources for me.

I’d love to hear from you – what are ways that you help to keep your pre-teens and teens engaged without making them feel like babies?